LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — As we head towards Memorial Day, a lot of people will be hitting the pools and soaking up the sun. It’s also that time of year where you have to pay extra attention to your skin and protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
For skin cancer awareness month, one Las Vegas woman is speaking out about her battle with stage 3 melanoma in hopes others will take care of their skin.
Stacey Escalante has lived in Las Vegas for 25 years. She says she loved the sun, but admits she didn’t pay much attention to sun protection.
She was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma 17 years ago. She says she remembers it like it was yesterday.
"I had a spot on my back the size of a pencil eraser and it was right on my waistline, and it was bothering me," Escalante added.
A dermatologist initially told Escalante everything looked fine, but she asked to remove the spot anyway. It’s a good thing she did.
"Ten days later, they tell me you have melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We think it’s gone within your system, and you need surgery right away and possibly another surgery and more treatments,’ Escalante said.
It was a two-year battle. Escalante says she had two small children and a busy career, but everything was put on hold so she could fight for her life.
“If we hadn’t taken that tumor out and I hadn’t had treatment, I would be dead. Melanoma kills,” Escalante said. “I’m really lucky I got another chance at life and I love spreading the word and letting people know- get your skin checked.”
Now, not only does Stacey pass along sun smart information to her kids and her family, she’s also part of the Nevada Cancer Coalition.
The organization runs a program called Sun Smart Nevada- it has curriculum and literature for all Nevada schools to teach kids and their parents about the importance of sun protection.
Stacey says they’re now seeing more teens being diagnosed with skin cancer. Her biggest piece of advice is to stay away from the tanning beds.
“Your chances of getting skin cancer increase dramatically just by one session in indoor tanning,” Escalante said.
Doctors also say to avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., wear sun protective clothing if you can, and wear sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher.
If you see any unusual moles or spots on your skin, doctors say to see a dermatologist.